The Lessons That Tony Soprano Taught Us About Gambling

The Lessons That Tony Soprano Taught Us About Gambling

For nine wonderful seasons, David Chase and HBO treated us with one of the greatest shows in TV history, The Sopranos. In that award-winning crime drama, we saw many scenes with lead character Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) involved in many forms of gambling.

New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano and his crew of Paulie “Walnuts” (Tony Sirico), ‘Big Pussy” (Vincent Pastore), cousin Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), and Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) got involved in all sorts of gambling through the years with varying degrees of success.

Sports betting, roulette, horse racing, poker and other forms of wagering were a part of the seedy fabric of this show with Tony usually chasing losses or his forays into gambling always seeming to make things worse for him.

Much to the chagrin of his wife Carmela (Edie Falco), the Tony Soprano gambling problem affected their marriage. But maybe not as much as his day-to-day life as he dealt with all of the things he had to as the head of the Soprano Crime Family. The winner of the Outstanding Drama Emmy award in both 2004 and 2007, The Sopranos was extremely cutting-edge and although it could be quite violent, the humor it provided and life lessons were also hallmarks of this elite and ground-breaking Television program.

Although the Tony Soprano gambling addiction storyline wasn’t always at the surface, Chase and the writers let it rear its ugly head in many scenes throughout the years.

What lessons did we learn from Tony Soprano about gambling? And can we apply any of them to our online gambling experience?

We definitely learned that playing Poker with Silvio could actually be more entertaining than the poker game itself.

1. It Ain’t Over Until the Last Play of the Game…

  • Season:6
  • Season Episode:16
  • Overall Episode: 81
  • Title: Chasing It

We see Tony suffer a bad beat on the last play of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills game with 12 seconds left while watching the game at The Bada Bing when Bills QB JP Losman pitches to football to a RB but it hits a lineman and it is then fumbled around.

Tony had the Buccaneers +3.

Peerless Price picks up the loose ball for Buffalo, only to fumble it himself. Then we see a Bills player scoop it up and scamper for a TD and a 28-24 Bills win and then to a mad Tony who was saying he would have settled for a Push (which made no mathematical sense).

We then see a thrilled Bills fan at the bar screaming and then see Paulie ask Tony if he wants another beer. Tony says no and then proceeds to go on in the back room and take out his bad beat football anger on a chair and some other items.

There are some gambling and football strategy holes in the scene. Why would Tony say he’d settle for a Push if getting 3 points and the score was 24-22? With Buffalo getting a TD on the play or FG, the Bills would win by 1 or 4 so the +3 makes no sense.

But we see the Tony Soprano gambling problem rear its ugly head in this scene from the show featuring gambling on NFL games. So, what does Tony do next in this classic episode from the sixth and final season of the show? He continues to chase. Of course, he does.

He hears the Dolphins Kicker was injured and that he has been replaced by a rookie. So, he bets $100,000 on Miami. You know what happened. Poor Tony.

2. Don’t Chase your Gambling Losses

  • Season: 6
  • Season Episode: 16
  • Overall Episode: 81
  • Title: Chasing It

After asking for a $200,000 loan from Hesh to deal with his gambling losses, Tony finds himself even betting more, and subsequently losing more and making matters worse for himself and his family in this same episode as our first lesson.

We even see the Tony Soprano gambling addiction storyline appear in a scene with Tony talking to Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) about his gambling problem. She says that maybe he is simply chasing the high of winning.

In this episode, we also see Tony suggesting to Carmela that they bet the money she made from a spec house she built and sold and then wager it all on the Jets. Carmela says no, that’s her future money and hers. The Jets went on to win 42-10. Then Tony loses it.

A nasty fight between Tony and Carmela ensues and she ends up throwing a $3000 figurine at Tony as we see how gambling and how “chasing” your losses can not only compound things financially, but also personally and emotionally.

3. Greed is Not Necessarily a “Good Thing” in Gambling

  • Season: 4
  • Season Episode: 5
  • Overall Episode: 44
  • Title: Pie-O-My

In an episode where we actually see Tony Soprano gambling and winning, we witness he and his crew at the Racetrack betting on a horse Ralph Cifaretto owned named Pie-O-My wearing the No. 3 saddle cloth.

This great gambling-related episode of the Sopranos was written by Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green and directed by Henry Brocnhtein and it debuted over 20 years ago on HBO on Sunday, October 13, 2002.

We see Pie-O-My win the race, and a member of the crew proclaiming, “Damnit, I bet to Show.” Tony and the horse slowly bond, and as Pie-O-My wins, Ralph gives Tony a taste of the winnings. But his greed to get more money creates a rift between the two.

When Pie-O-My gets sick and the vet bills are piling up and Ralph refuses to take action, Tony intervenes and hustles over to the stable and settles the bill and spends time with the horse, stroking her neck and saying all will be alright.

But a stable fire tragically killed Pie-O-My, and Tony assumes Ralph is behind it to collect a $200,000 insurance policy. When he goes to tell Ralph that Pie-O-My has died in the fire, Ralph is intent on changing the subject and Tony can tell Ralph was likely involved.

When Tony asks him about arsonist Cory Ianucci, Ralphie becomes enraged and says Tony doesn’t care about beating anyone up as long as he gets paid.

The two end up fighting and Tony ends up strangling Ralph, saying, “She was a beautiful, innocent creature.” So, despite what Gordon Gekko told us all in Oliver Stone’s classic film Wall Street, greed may not necessarily be that “good.”

Tony’s desire to always want more money and Ralph’s apathy toward caring about whether a beloved animal died in a fire just as long as he got his $200K shows how never being satisfied can lead to a path of destruction, even if a fictionally depicted one here.

4. Watching Gamblers Can be More Entertaining Than Gambling

  • Season: 2
  • Season Episode: 2
  • Overall Episode: 15
  • Title: Do Not Resuscitate

Silvio absolutely loses his mind during a backroom poker game and goes off on everyone at the table, including the poor kid that Tony tells to go sweep up the cheese and bread crumbs from around Sil’s feet during the game as an amused Tony watches.

What follows is TV gold. The Tony Soprano gambling addiction doesn’t drag down the episode as Tony isn’t actually playing in the poker game, but Silvio’s instant bitterness over cheese crumbs and sweeping and the words he used are why this show was the best.

This classic episode aired on Sunday, January 23, 2000 and was directed by Martin Bruesstle and written by Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green, and Frank Renzulli. Quite often the simple thrill of betting and the circus surrounding it provides entertainment value.

As I know for having lived in Las Vegas for half of my life now, watching gamblers can be just as, if not more entertaining, than gambling itself. Sportsbooks, race books, poker and roulette tables easily provide the greatest entertainment value.

5. You Can’t Lose if You Don’t Bet

  • Season: 3
  • Season Episode: 3
  • Overall Episode: 29
  • Title: Fortunate Son

We can see that Tony Soprano’s gambling problem could have been avoided if he only listened to some sage advice his dad gave him when he was still a kid. In a flashback scene from March 11, 2001, Season 2, Episode 2 titled “Fortunate Son,” we see the warning.

The Tony Soprano gambling addiction and its roots are deep and we see that his panic attacks are triggered by meat references due to the fact that he witnessed his dad trying to collect a gambling debt from Mr. Satriale where he sliced off some of his fingers.

“You should never gamble,” Tony’s dad told him.

Later we see Tony telling his own son AJ, “You should never gamble Anthony, let this be a lesson to ya, a man honors his debts.”

But it’s obvious that Tony has become a slave to gambling and never listed to his father’s advice he gave, whether he was serious or not.

Second-guessing himself and being a reactionary bettor or blaming others seemed to be Tony’s MO when his best bet may have been not even betting at all but simply deciding on being the bookie.

Oh, What a Tale Toney Weaves Through Gambling

Tony Soprano gambling scenes weren’t as prevalent as we all think over the 86 episodes of this The Godfather-GoodFellas hybrid from HBO, but the Tony Soprano gambling problem was a big problem and part of the reason why he was in therapy.

And we saw how much Tony cared about dealing with his addiction when he frustrated Dr. Melfi by taking a phone call about sports gambling and bets during one of their sessions.

The show’s writers could have done a much better job getting some of the little things right when talking about sports gambling and in specific scenes as the numbers and situations didn’t make sense in the Bills-Bucs game Tony wagered on and that bad beat.

Saying he’d settle for a Push getting three points and covering by one point before that last play started makes no sense. The Bills trailing by 2 and not going for a FG also makes no sense. And when Tampa Bay temporarily recovered the fumble, why not just take a knee and then end the game as a 2-point winner? In an effort to make the beat look so bad to poor Tony, the writer’s journalistic license just didn’t make sense to NFL fans or sports gamblers.

Also, when we see Tony getting the Jets-Chargers score, he gets it from the daily newspaper. Even if he only bet $10 on it and wanted Carmela to literally bet a house on it, he would know the score as it happened or immediately after the game was over.

And he lived in North Caldwell, New Jersey, so all Jersey residents that were NFL gamblers would have theoretically known that the J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! had hammered the Chargers, 42-10 that Sunday night from TV or radio or word of mouth.

And why wasn’t the head of his own crime family not booking the bets? Needless to say, The Sopranos gave us some great TV and showed both the dark and light sides of gambling.


About the Author
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Rick Rockwell
Sports/Casino Writer
Blog and News
Rick has been a professional writer for over 14 years with an extensive resume spanning projects and clients from around the world. But, his passions have always been sports and sports betting. Whether it’s being a credentialed media member to major sporting events, climbing into a racecar or a pro wrestling ring, Rick’s sports and sports betting knowledge, passion and versatility is on display with each article he writes for TSG.

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